CPEC and Gwadar protests

“Aiming to promote living and infrastructure developments in Balochistan and Pakistan, CPEC has brought no influence in the province as of now”

picture source- Getty images

In a press briefing on November 30, the spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry of China, Zhao Lijian, said certain outlets, pointing out to the western outlets in particular and others in general, were violating “basic journalist ethics and morality” with fake news regarding “fishing and docking” of Chinese trawlers in Gwadar port. He turned the Gwadar protest “out of the context of Gwadar port”, stressing on the importance of the port and calling it an “exemplary project” of China Pakistan Economic Corridor which would intensify a friendly relationship between the two countries.

Talking to WION, an Indian-based news channel, on phone call on November 22, Maulana Hidayat Ur Rehman said that “the Pakistan government is hand-in-glove with the Chinese trawlers who are threatening their livelihood by illegally fishing in the southwestern Makran coast”. The Maulana further described the situation of provision of fundamental rights including the pitiful state of drivers doing business through the Iranian border with “excessive and unnecessary check-posts” who stop and catechize their coming and going. The Maulana added in his demand list the removal of such ‘unimportant’ check-posts from the district.

ANI, the news agency of India, also made reports on Gwadar protests on November 23, of several demonstrations initiated by Maulana Hidayat ur Rehman, the Secretary General of Jamaat-e-Islami, Balochistan, that broke out “against China’s multi-billion belt and road project”. The report further elaborated that other provinces were “benefiting from CPEC” but Balochistan was yet to get an eye. The reports stated that locals have been opposing “China’s increasing involvement in Balochistan”, hence, people from all walks of life and ages have marched towards the roads in Gwadar for a sit-in.

The reports read authentic as of the ground realities and demands of Gwadar’s protestors. The locals seem “unhappy with CPEC” which has failed to a great extent to fulfill the said developments in the region. Besides the international outlets, Gwadar protests also got a good bit of reporting – especially in the latter half – in the national print media, while it still awaits to get enough coverage from the broadcasting media. But the point is, what CPEC means to the Baloch and how are national and international media looking into the matter?

Planned years ago and shaped practically in 2015, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, famous as CPEC, is a mutual business project by the two neighboring countries, Pakistan and China. Although it holds an interest from both ends, but we will examine what it aims to give to Balochistan and Gwadar – the hub of the project.

Aiming to promote living and infrastructure developments in Balochistan and Pakistan, CPEC has brought no influence in the province as of now. The scenario is diverse from the Baloch perspective; several development projects have been made in upper Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, whereas, the project could bring no change in the fate of the already-grieving province of Balochistan, other than repairing of the Gwadar port – not for Baloch interests though.

On the other hand, the CPEC route has also caused severe challenges to the residents. The towns and villages, bypassing the route, have gone through serious consequences owing to security threats, including plenty of migration of the villagers. A number of unnecessary check-posts have been established all the way – particularly in the Makran division. It has ultimately led to a rise in attacks on security agencies by Baloch separatist groups in various parts of Balochistan, including Makran.

In fact, Gwadar itself has gone through unending dilemmas which have intensified after China’s arrival in the region. The biggest example is the recent Gwadar protest. One wonders, how come a city with utmost geostrategic importance go this neglected? Most families have the business on either side of the border – driving or fishing – both of which have been interrupted recently. “When the citizens were left with no other option, it led them to protest against the provincial and federal governments, including China which has disturbed the peace of the region,” said a local during the ongoing sit-in.

Although, CPEC can prove very beneficial for Pakistan and China both, but sidelining Balochistan in this venture of prosperity will lead to a sense of negligence for the people of the province and eventually cause disturbance to the project. Had Pakistan given Balochistan a fair development, situation would have been a lot different today. It is yet to be seen how the newly-established government of Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo goes regarding Gwadar’s protestors and convinces the people towards CPEC and a culmination of their sit-in.

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